Who is who here?

An epidemic of existential dilemmas
Voters queue up outside a polling booth in Handwara on April 11, 2019. Aman Farooq/GK
Voters queue up outside a polling booth in Handwara on April 11, 2019. Aman Farooq/GK

I must clarify that what all follows was related to me by a friend of mine who among other things writes stuff for newspapers and all that. He belongs to the tribe of pen-pushers who make ample use of their pens to secure their own personal interests and get qualms of conscience only when they are rejected by their patrons. 

It has been rumored that this guy is fond of spirits of the bottled variety but I have always believed that his apparent state of inebriation is just a heightened state of confusion.

A confusion that is seen almost universally in the inhabitants of 'the paradise on earth' who if some researcher takes trouble to find out may turn out to be the original lotus eaters of Greek mythology.

Anyway a couple of days back when he came to see me he did look and sound like he had had a rendezvous with the bottle. He related a strange story to me and what follows is a faithful reproduction of his narrative. I would advise you to take it with a pinch of salt as I do with all his writings.

Yesterday I was walking along this deserted stretch of road when I saw this outlandish guy with a strange looking box by his side. As I got nearer I could see that the box was a bioscope, that antique box-like contraption with round viewing-holes to peep into while the bioscope-wallah cranked a handle and you would see moving images to the accompaniment of sound. I asked the strange fellow that I would like to have a peek.

He just smiled a wry smile and wordlessly lifted the cover off one of the viewing-holes. I put my eyes to it and the strange fellow started moving the handle. A scene of a protest demonstration flashed in front of my eyes and the speaker attached to the box came alive with crackling sounds of "Hum kya chahtay" "Azaadi!" "We Want?" "Freedom!" Guns barked and it looked like a young man leading the demonstration had got shot in the chest.

For an instant his face turned towards the camera and I could see the expression of pain mixed with fierce enthusiasm on his face as he defiantly continued to shout slogans of freedom. This was followed by another scene of a guy wearing army fatigues getting down from an armored vehicle and leading a posse of security personnel as they raided a house and beat up the inhabitants.

The guy in fatigues fired a volley of shots to further terrify the beaten-up inmates. As he did so he posed for the camera with an exaggerated swagger and I saw to my surprise that it was the same young man whom I had seen in the earlier reel.

 A scene of a polling booth came up and I saw the same guy in the role of an enthusiastic polling agent. This was followed by a scene of the same polling booth in the late evening after the polling was over. Some guys were shouting slogans of azaadi and throwing stones at the security personnel still inside the booth.

Though it was dark yet I could still make out that the same guy was leading the stone-pelters. The scene shifted to the victory celebrations of a particular party. Now this very guy was beating a drum and dancing in jubilation though strangely the winning candidate was from the rival party and not the one he had been rooting for in the polling day scene. "Who's that guy?" I wondered aloud.

At this moment the reels got blurred and since I couldn't make out what all was showing, I gestured to the bioscope-wallah. He pointed to another one of the viewing-holes. I peered in through this peephole and the reel started playing.

A guy was reading loudly out of a newspaper. The words sounded familiar and then I realized that this fellow was reading one of my own write-ups supporting a particular viewpoint on Kashmir! Even though these were my own words they were so effective that I was really moved. Then another scene followed.

This time another guy was reading out from a magazine. Again these were my own words but so powerful and full of such impeccable logic that I would have been even more affected than I was by the first one but for the fact that the view-point being supported was diametrically opposite to that of the earlier write-up! I was puzzled but another reel started in the meantime and I concentrated upon it.

Now as I expected the guy was reading another one of my write-ups. This time my well crafted arguments supported an entirely different view-point contradicting both the earlier ones. By now I was suffering from an existential dilemma and as I drew away from the viewing-hole I could hear my voice which sounded far away saying, "Who am I?"

Having related all this, my friend fell silent and appearedto be lost in some world of his own. After a while he turned a blank staretowards me and whispered hoarsely, "Who are you?"

Although my friend appeared to be in some sort of a tranceand probably was not aware of what he was saying, his question was quitepertinent and I blushed as I realized that I had no answer for it…

(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored!Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce(iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, atsnp_ajazbaba@yahoo.com)

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